Wellbeing of children with special needs in Northumberland hit during first lockdown

The mental health and wellbeing of Northumberland children with special needs as well as their parents/carers took a hit during the first lockdown, a survey has shown.

By Ben O'Connell
Monday, 9th November 2020, 4:49 pm
County Hall in Morpeth
County Hall in Morpeth

A survey was carried out in July and August to understand the impact of Covid-19 on children, young people and their families with SEND (special educational needs or disabilities) in the county.

A total of 426 families provided feedback – the largest response for a SEND survey in Northumberland with the previous highest being 117 – which revealed some concerning trends.

An update to the council’s family and children’s services committee revealed that ‘home schooling was difficult for many families, particularly when combined with working from home. The nature of their child’s needs, a lack of routine, the number of children and adults in the household, and the support the family received from school impacted significantly on a family’s ability to home school.’

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It added: ‘Lockdown impacted negatively on the mental health and wellbeing of most parents and carers as well as that of their children with SEND. Families also reported having to decrease their spending in order to manage and some reported struggling financially.

‘Families reported feeling worried and anxious about their children returning to school and concerned how their child will catch up on their learning, reintegrate back into school, manage social interactions, cope with transitions and stay safe from the coronavirus.’

The responses also showed that some schools seemed to provide much better levels of support than others.

The report states: ‘For some families, school provided good support around children’s learning and timely support for their wellbeing. For others, parents reported a lack of communication and school work sent home that their child found difficult to do.

‘Many children and young people with SEND received more or the same level of health and social care support than before lockdown, while others reported they received less or no support. A group of children and young people reported their assessments went ahead, while for the remainder it was delayed or cancelled.’

The council’s strategic lead for SEND, Sam Barron, said: “The findings in our survey locally matched the findings at a national level.

“Our health and social care teams quickly adopted different ways of working to ensure that support was still able to be provided. It might have been in a different format, but it was always provided where needed.”

On the survey return rate, she added: “I’m very pleased as I feel it gave us a very good insight as to the experiences and the actions we need to take as a response.”

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